Lau Kuok Ding

1931 - 2020
Missionary, school principal and pastor

Rev Lau Kuok Ding was born in Sibu, Sarawak, in 1931. He was the  eldest son of the late Rev Lau Hung Ang, a second-generation Christian who had migrated from China. 

Since young, Kuok Ding had learned about stewardship and offerings as mentioned in the Bible. When he was in lower secondary school, his father arranged for him to become a helper in the hostel kitchen and he was given free food and lodging. His father also helped him prepare a plot of land for planting vegetables and encouraged him to practice tithing from his harvest. He was so blessed to have two harvests per week that he was able to tithe when he attended the Methodist Church.

Through the help of Bishop Amstutz, Lau went to Singapore and studied at the Methodist Anglo-Chinese School from 1951 to 1952 where he obtained his Senior Cambridge certificate. He then went to Trinity Theological College, Singapore, from 1953 to 1955 and earned a licentiate in theology.

Following that, he obtained a scholarship from the Inglewood Methodist Church, Nashville, in the US, with the help of Harry Caldwell who was then in China. Caldwell was the father-in-law of the missionary John Pilley.

Lau was sponsored to train as a Christian social worker in Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, Tennessee, where he obtained a degree in teachers' training from George Peabody College.

Missionary to Sarawak

After his graduation, Lau accepted an appointment from the Inglewood Methodist Church of Nashville, Tennessee to be a missionary to his home state of Sarawak from June 1957 to December 1960. At that time, funds from the Inglewood Methodist Church were sent to the mission account of the Sarawak Methodist Church via the General Board of Global Ministries. The account was managed by district superintendent Dr Douglas Coole and was used for school development and later, for missionaries to travel between Sarikei and Sibu.

Lau was made the principal of the Sarikei Anglo-Chinese School which was set up in 1954. He replaced John Pilley who went back to the US on furlough. He was also the principal of the Sarikei Methodist Kindergarten and Methodist Secondary School. He took charge of the Sarikei Methodist orphanage which later merged with the Sibu Methodist Children’s Home.

The Sarikei Methodist Secondary School was set up in 1959, offering classes up to Form 3. Chieng Yew Lik and Chio Sing Ching (now Bishop Emeritus) were students in this school. However, it was closed in 1974 due to various reasons. Lau held the post of principal from January 1, 1958 to January 1, 1960. His salary of $400 a month was paid by the Government Education Department. At the same time, he was also the assistant pastor of the Methodist Town Church, Sarikei. His father, Rev Lau Hung Ang, was then the pastor in charge of that church. 

At that time, the Sarikei Methodist hostel was used to accommodate orphans temporarily, among whom were Judy Wong (retired principal of the Methodist Pilley Institute) and her siblings. Later, they were all sent to the Methodist Children’s Home in Sibu.

In 1957, Lau Kuok Ding was accepted by the Sarawak Annual Conference of the Methodist Church as a provisional pastor. He was ordained as an elder in 1960. He married Lee Bee Jin from Penang, who was then working in Kapit as a missionary, on November 19, 1960 in Masland Church Sibu. The younger sister of the bride, Lee Bee Teck (who became the wife of Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung), was the bridesmaid.

Lee Bee Jin held a diploma in theology and a Bachelor's degree in Science.

Further studies
After completing his four-year term as a missionary, Lau obtained another scholarship from Inglewood Methodist Church. In January 1961, he went with his wife for further studies in education at Peabody College in Tennessee. In 1962, he went to Canada to study at the University of Toronto for a Master's degree in education as his American degree in education was not recognised in Sarawak. His wife also obtained a Master's degree in education. 

Lau returned to Sarawak in 1964 to teach in the Methodist Secondary School.

He joined the government service and lectured at the Batu Lintang Teachers’ Training College for a year. In 1966, he was transferred to the Rajang Teachers' Training College in Bintangor.

This college was sponsored by the New Zealand government which also sent lecturers there to train local teachers. By 1968, the local people began to hold the posts of college principals and Lau was the principal from 1969 to 1970.

In 1971, he was transferred to Kuching as assistant divisional education officer (DEO). In 1973, he was transferred to Batu Lintang Teachers' Training College as principal, where he served until 1976. From 1976 to 1978, he was again posted back to the education department in Kuching.

Leaving Sarawak
On May 5, 1976, Lau left Sarawak for the US to lecture at the Kentucky Wesleyan College. He also pastored a church there for three years.

In 1981, Rev Lau Kuok Ding and Mrs Lau were invited by the North Georgia Methodist Annual Conference to set up a Chinese Methodist Church in Atlanta to evangelise the refugees from Southeast Asia and look after their welfare. The church was established on January 29, 1984.

Rev Lau officially retired from the Annual Conference in 1996 but he and his wife continued to teach in DeKalb School and remained very active servants of God. They even went to China for three summers as volunteer English teachers.

He passed away at the age of 89 on December 9, 2020, five days after his wife Bee Jin. [1]


  1. ^ “Lau, Lilyc Bee-Jin and Kuok-Ding”, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Obituaries, December 20, 2020,  


© SCAC. This article from Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills is reproduced with permission of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, The Methodist Church in Malaysia, with minor editing for clarity and brevity. 

[Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills 1 and 2 are compiled by Wong Meng Lei (also chief editor), edited by Tumi Ngae, and translated by Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, and Chang Yi. Book 2 translators are Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, Chang Yi and Ting Kong Sing.]